May 19 2008

Stone Cup: Day Two

Published by under Beneteau,Sailboat Racing

Some choices are easier to make than others . . . and, this one was absolutely clear: I need to look for another boat.

The second day of racing was pretty good. I was mentally prepped and ready for the racing. I was also better rested, no alcohol in my system from the night before, and had eaten better–wanted to eliminate that from my sailing performance altogether. I worked the bow and another racer from another boat I sailed on was working mast–and, he is a good sailor.

The first race in the IRC Division was a shorter race with 3 full sausages around the course. We had a very clean foredeck the entire race: good hoists and douses. We had one issue when the entire boat had prepared for a windward douse and literally, in the last second, the owner called out “Leeward douse!”

I am not sure if he wasn’t able to drive for a windward douse, or if he just plain forgot, or what–but, of course, we had a kite flying out of the back of the boat, lost some time, and recovered unscathed. We may never know what happened, but 8 out of 9 people knew windward douse–unfortunately that ninth person was driving.

The second race started well. The foredeck worked through the 10 minutes of lunch changing headsails for the changing conditions. The winds were holding above 20 knots/hour and gusting higher. I also cleared the gear at that time and re-checked everything.

Once the second race started, we made it to the windward mark, set the pole and had a good hoist–although the we got the final word to t-up the spinnaker about 100 yards from the mark. We gybed a couple of times, and started to talk through the leeward rounding and all was going well, until . . . .

The very next gybe, the lazy spinnaker sheet had come loose and wrapped itself around the jaws of the pole. We had lassoed it around the guy, but there had been some tension on it from the back of the boat and it pulled loose.  When we tripped, it held the pole right in place. The owner of the boat took this race off, and our helmsman is a superior sailor of excellent skill. He saw it happen and eased the boat. As I went to correct this, he thought I was fixing it one way, and I was fixing it the other way.

The result was a REALLY ugly wrap–like picture-worth of the “Now That’s Ugly” contest on Sailing Anarchy (although we did not tear the spinnaker). A couple of crew members came forward to help secure the spinnaker, and we headed in to port.

By this time, the owner had come up from down below and was looking for a scape-goat. And, he picked me. It was relatively soft, but in a sweet and diminutive tone, told me that I was ready for the “light wind” racing and not this heavy stuff.

He did not try to reconstruct what happened. When the trim team said that the foredeck was not getting the information in enough time to act upon it, he did not listen. When the helmsman said that it was a result of mis-communication–he was helping me fix it one way, and I was fixing it the other–he did not listen. In fact, I don’t think he even knew what happened.

And, that is okay. He owns the boat and can run it however he likes, but I do not want to sail with him. Snap decisions cause mistakes. Lack of communication cause mistakes. And, mistakes happen on every boat. Crucifying me for those mistakes is foolish and counter-productive. I am certainly willing to take my share of the blame–but, shouldering all of it is a bit much.  It simply creates a foredeck that is hostile towards the cockpit and a cockpit that is hostile towards the foredeck.  Not exactly a great definition of teamwork . . . .

The larger issue, however, is that the boat owner did not see or understand what happened. He has made his decision blindly, without the information. Sailing like that is how people get hurt–and, it might be me. So, this weekend, and all of the incidents led me to my decision: I am looking for a new boat to race.

Got bowman?

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May 19 2008

Terms: Windward Douse

There are many ways to do everything on a boat, and some better serve the situation than others.  When dousing the spinnaker, the windward douse is another tool in your bag of tricks.

The name holds the clues to what differentiates this douse from a leeward douse–what side of the boat your are using to bring down the spinnaker.

Here are the steps:

  1. When ready, have a crew member come forward (or the crew member working the mast can do this) and hold the working guy–which is on the windward side.
  2. Trip the spinnaker pole and drop the pole to the foredeck.
  3. At this point, the driver is starting to turn to windward.  Grab both clews and pull/feed it right into the open hatch.  The wind will push it right down the open hatch.

It is a pretty slick way to get the spinnaker down quickly.  One guy on board suggested that you grab both ends and simply sit down.  I presume that this saves your arms and the force starts the descent process of the sail and assists in starting the collapse of that big sail.

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May 18 2008

Terms: Leeward Douse

Coming around the windward mark of the course, the foredeck crew hoist the spinnaker–it provides the primary power for the boat while sailing downwind.  At the leeward mark, the foredeck crew raise the jib sail, then lower and retrieve the spinnaker.  A leeward douse is one of the ways to accomplish this.

On a leeward douse, the lazy spinnaker guy is taken and given to a crew member down the open hatch (if there is a crew member available).  The foredeck crew then each grab the foot of the spinnaker sail and pull the bulk of the sail down as fast as possible into the forward hatch.  This release of the spinnaker halyard is guided by the crew member working in the pit (if it is simply dropped, the sail will most likely go into the water).

Lastly, the hatch cover is closed, the pole is dropped to the deck and stowed, and the jib sheets are cleared to ensure that we can tack when necessary.  When achieved, the foredeck tells the back of the boat that the is tackable.

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May 17 2008

Enicinal Yacht Club Beer-Can Races

Published by under Beneteau,Sailboat Racing

Last night, to signify the end a great week and begin a great weekend of sailing, we raced in the Encinal Yacht Club’s Friday-night Beer-can races.

This race is a fun little jaunt–a couple of sausages up and down the estuar–but, the winds of the estuary and the quality of the sailors make it a challenge. Many of the Bay Area’s vendors of sailing-related services operate in Alamada, CA. And, some of these sail-maker and boat builders live close to work . . . .

Lastly, the great fun is the weather in the Estuary. Someone on-board last night said it in the best way I have heard to-date. “It’s the Estuary! There is completely different wind 100 yards away.” Light air sailboat racing at its best, and definitely a great way to cap the week.

If you are interested, the Encinal Yacht Club (sponsors of the yearly Coastal Cup from San Francisco to Santa Barbara) was founded in 1890. Check out their Website:

PS. I was racing on a Beneteau 40.5, and worked the foredeck.

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